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Consumers have longer to lodge complaints with telco Ombudsman

The Telecommunication Industry Ombudsman (TIO) is even more accessible to consumers following an increase in the age of complaints it can handle, effective from today.

Consumers can now make complaints about issues that they became aware of up to two years before contacting the TIO, up from one year.

The Ombudsman will also have the discretion to investigate complaints that consumers became aware of up to six years before contacting the TIO, up from two years.

“This change will increase the accessibility of the TIO to Australian telecommunications consumers,” Ombudsman Simon Cohen said. “This includes, in particular, consumers who are in financial hardship and those who are the subject of default listings.”

The change brings the TIO more closely in to line with national benchmarks for industry Ombudsman, the time limits of other national Ombudsman and statutes of limitation for simple contracts.

The two-year time limit matches the most common length of a telecommunications contract. The six-year limit allows for most or all pre- and post-contractual interactions to be considered, including handling the root causes of disputed default listings.

New procedures introduced with the change to time limits will provide a fair and transparent process about deciding whether to extend time limits beyond two years, including an obligation on the TIO to provide reasons to the consumer and service provider.

Factors the TIO will consider when deciding whether to the handle complaints older than two years include:

  • the reasons for the delay in contacting the Ombudsman
  • the ongoing impact of the dispute, and
  • any disadvantage to the telco as a result of the delay.

The expanded powers follow a review of the TIO’s monetary limits in 2012 that increased the value of the amounts in dispute to $50,000 (up from $35,000), and the recommendation power to $100,000 (up from $85,000). It also follows the adoption of a more flexible approach to defining a small business in 2012.